Ice waterfall climbing in Lech
They rise amidst the snow-capped peaks of the Arlberg mountain range, like gigantic sheets of glass inviting climbers from around the world to put their skills and endurance to the test in a unique challenge. No climbing experience can be compared to the literally sheer ascent of the frozen waterfalls at Lech, the quintessential Alpine ski resort. Here, there are no safe paths and clearly marked trails to catch your breath. Only white stalactites, a vertical natural sculpture on which you will carve your progress with ice axes and crampons. Just ten minutes from the medieval village of Lech, a popular destination for royalty and celebrities, the area’s stunning waterfalls present a worthy challenge for novices and experienced climbers alike.
Whether it’s your first time or you have already been practicing on the artificial ice climbing wall at the nearby St. Anton ski resort, Lech’s mountainous landscape is suitable for all levels of climbing proficiency. With one of the 29 imaginatively decorated rooms at the Kristiania Lech hotel serving as your base camp, your days will begin on the slopes and continue in the boutique spaces of a distinguished member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. At Austria’s first climate-neutral hotel, the deluxe services include your own Ski Butler to help organize your winter exploits, as well as a Ski Nanny who will pick up children at the ski school and accompany them to the Lounge for lunch, leaving you free to conquer the waterfall.
Snowshoeing in Seiser Alm
Each step you take, you leave behind a faint track in what just a few moments ago was untrodden snow that looked like icing sugar. Winter has dressed the Dolomites in white, so put on your snowshoes for an ice tour in the area of Seiser Alm or Alpe di Siusi, as Italians refer to the South Tyrol province. Little disturbs the enchanting silence of the walk, only the characteristic crunching sound as you progress across the snow. Depending on just how tranquil it is at the time, each downward thrust of the trekking pole sounds like you are piercing an impermeable surface. But you don’t have that much strength; what you do have is endurance, which will richly reward you with incredible views no matter where you are on the 30-km. network of trails.
And after walking 1-5 km. in approximately 2½ hours, observing deer and other wildlife, you reach the heated comfort of the Seiser Alm Urthaler hotel – where your body temperature gradually rises – for a visit to the Jägerstube Restaurant and a cup of steaming tea or hot chocolate accompanied by delicious Tyrolean dishes based on local ingredients. The more adventurous who set off in the afternoon to catch the sunset will return to the modern design of a Small Luxury Hotel with gorgeous wood interiors, before relaxing in the indoor pool of the Antermoia Spa with its panoramic view of the surrounding slopes at an altitude of 2,000 meters.
Ballooning in Gstaad
A colorful sky full of balloons will welcome those fortunate enough to find themselves in Saanenland and the iconic Alpine village of Gstaad in Switzerland between 25/1 and 2/2. Some 80 hot air balloons will be floating in the sky, forming a spectacular collage. Τhere is always the more adventurous option of boarding one yourself. As you climb into the gondola, be aware that you are carrying on a centuries-old activity, safe in the knowledge that the pilots have been taking to the skies for the past two decades. It is the only activity that allows you to enjoy in complete tranquillity the incredible scenery, as you float silently over rivers and glistening lakes, forest clearings and snow-laden trees set amidst white hills, not to mention The Alpina Gstaad, a grandiose chalet with four towers and wooden balconies.
Your first impression of the luxury resort is just one of many memories that will remain with you long after your stay. Since opening in December 2012, The Alpina Gstaad has received a European Hotel Design of the Year award and other 2 for its superb interiors designed by The Gallery HBA London. Others surprises await in the 56 rooms, elegant restaurants, and ultra-modern Six Senses spa. The actual flight in the hot air balloon lasts 1 hour, but the entire procedure including take-off and landing is 3 hours. So make sure you are high in the sky at dawn or sunset.
Sleigh rides in Adelboden
Nestled in a valley that embraces the village of Adelboden, The Cambrian hotel is set amid the pristine scenery of the Swiss Alps, an image that you will relish from the heated outdoor swimming pool or from the winter garden and sun terrace, as you sip a refreshing après-ski aperitif. A member of Design Hotels™, The Cambrian combines in an extraordinary way clean-cut decoration with innovative uses of natural materials and manages to blend in perfectly with the Alpine landscape, which explains why it has become established as a primary winter destination in its own right. And you won’t need much pushing to try some of the winter activities on offer in the area. If it’s your first time here, board a wooden sleigh for an unforgettably romantic ride through the forest.
More experienced snow goers will no doubt choose one of the ski pistes ranging from 1½ to 4½ km. in length with different difficulty levels. You will be shifting heaps of natural or artificial snow at the various centers that remain open from November to May. From Adelboden/Lenk with the longest pistes to Adelboden-Frutigen, the opportunities are limitless for exciting daytime as well as night-time skiing. Take a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh on trails that take between 30 minutes and 2 hours, or go for the more classic option with huskies, crossing the northern part of the Engstligenalp plateau, before stopping at the region’s famous igloo restaurant that serves traditional fondue.
Heliskiing in Verbier
Here it is. The winter activity that will whisk you away from the ski centers for exhilarating descents far from the madding pistes. Board the helicopter and prepare for a unique Swiss skiing adventure that offers panoramic vistas of captivating slopes and gets your adrenaline flowing from the moment you put on the passenger safety helmet and set eyes on the freezing hillsides where you will soon be leaving your first tracks in the virgin snow. Can you think of anything more impressive to be sharing on Instagram, Twitter and in future conversations? You will take off from Verbier, where your hotel – the Cordée des Alpes – is located, on a flight beyond the commonplace, from the heliport at Le Châble to the summit of Petit Combin.
The awesome descent ends amidst trees not far from the first small farms in the Val de Bagnes. After one or two descents – weather permitting – the afternoon will probably find you back in the cozy wooden setting of the Cordée des Alpes for a steam bath at the Cinq Mondes spa, followed by a drink at the Cocktail Bar. Although the exterior is somewhat reminiscent of an Alpine doll’s house, this inspired Small Luxury Hotel hides many surprises, including private dining in the gourmet restaurant with the minimal decoration and midday coffee standing on one of the countless wood balconies.
Tubing in Sierra Nevada
Great recreation for all the family is guaranteed as you fly down the mountain in snow tubes, with a variety of lanes specially designed to maximize enjoyment. Just sit in the inflatable tube that looks like a large rubber doughnut, push off to start sliding on the snow and enjoy the descent as you spin, glide and bounce along. It’s not only an incredibly fun activity but also inexpensive, since it requires a minimum of equipment and can be enjoyed on naturally frozen slopes and lakes, provided you have first had some practice and gained confidence. The experience is taken to new limits at the Spanish ski station of Borreguiles at an altitude of 2,650 m., which has a special piste for children.
A little lower (2,200 m.) at Prado Llano there is a charming Small Luxury Hotel, the El Lodge Ski and Spa Resort where you can stay in one of the 20 rooms, savor the view from the outdoor Jacuzzi while the children are kept busy in the Kids Game Room, and sample some local cuisine with Andalusian influences, a barbeque menu and creative dishes of international cuisine in the three inviting restaurants. Αt the end of the day, the Finnish wood and views of the snow bring a warm feeling to the room, the best remedy for fatigue.
Winter walking in St. Moritz
If you always fancied the idea of hiking in the snow, you are in the right place, at the right time. Between mid-January and April, when the Engadin valley in the Swiss Alps lies under thick snow, the first hiking trails are marked out. Temperatures drop below zero – ideally -9 to -6 degrees – and a dazzling white network of paths extending for 150 km. offers an authentic winter experience in St. Moritz. The Nira Alpina hotel, just 5 km. from the center of St. Moritz, is the ideal base for exploring the surrounding area, providing easy access in every direction and a private glass walkway connecting the eminent Design Hotels™ member with the Corvatsch cable car station.
With your essential companions… windproof jackets, warm boots, isothermal tops, gloves, winter headgear… you’re ready for an enchanting walk from Lake Sils to romantic Fex Valley or through the Maloja Pass and the snow-covered forest as far as Lake Cavloccia. If you have kids with you, make use one of the special pushchairs and marvel at the views from the village of Dorf as far as the cable car station at Chantarella. Returning to the hotel does not mean that you leave these beautiful images behind. The best indoor spots to admire them are from the Nira Alpina’s restaurant on the fifth floor tasting the most flavored international dishes and from the rooftop bar having the last drink of the night.
Horse riding at Mount Parnassos
In terms of privileged locations, the Elatos Resort & Health Club is certainly in a league of its own as a winter tourism destination, attracting not only cosmopolitan visitors from Arachova and admirers of historic Delphi but also romantic nature lovers and winter sports aficionados. It is only a two-hour drive from Athens to the heart of Mount Parnassos and one of the resort’s 39 independent wooden chalets ranging from 70-140 m2, with two or three bedrooms accommodating two to six people. The latest member of Aria Hotels, the family-owned boutique hotel, and villas company that has become synonymous with the effortless charm of authentic Greek hospitality offer guests a living room with fireplace, one or two bathrooms, a veranda, a kitchenette in most chalets, along with other amenities and services.
The pampering at the Health Club – with indoor heated pool, jacuzzi, a fully equipped gym, and beauty and personal care facility – will make you frequent après-ski visitors to the Club House, whilst younger guests will be kept well entertained at the specially designed mini club. And all this is just within the resort, for beyond there is nothing more thrilling than horse trekking along forest trails freshly covered with snow in the area of Livadi. As the sun slowly slips over the horizon, casting red and purple hues on pristine white slopes, you will feel like a latter-day Don Quixote chasing the ultimate adrenaline fix in an idyllic setting.
Snowmobiling in Bansko
Forget the 4×4. The coolest winter safari is now with a snowmobile. Adventure and excitement in a stunning environment, always with the possibility of a chance encounter with wildlife. What’s required of you is determination, grit and, if you’re a novice, close attention to the instructors, so that you can safely enjoy an entirely different snow experience in the Rila and Pirin mountains. The thrill of riding hard over the frozen terrain, even in places where no other activity gives you access, is quite extraordinary. You can set out with the colors of dawn and spend an hour exploring the landscape or continue on a half- or full-day tour, stopping for lunch at one of the local taverns near the Bansko ski center.
End your trek as the sun goes down behind the Premier Luxury Mountain Resort, the number one Travelers’ Choice in Tripadvisor’s 2013 ranking of top luxury resorts. First comes the Amvrosia restaurant as well among the best restaurants in Bulgaria giving you one more reason to visit the hotel. The interior spaces of the five-star Small Luxury Hotel have clearly been inspired by the colors of the surrounding landscape, with various shades of snow dominating the rooms of the Standard Collection and Premier Collection, where you can enjoy a meal or snack with a view of the snow-covered slopes.
Ice driving in Val Thorens
Whoever has seen Trophée Andros ice racing on the frozen Alain Prost track at Val Thorens will have witnessed winter sports at perhaps their most extreme. And if this particular type of vehicle control gets your adrenaline rushing, you can satisfy your craving at an altitude of 2,300 m. at Europe’s highest ski resort. Get behind the wheel and start the engine under the guidance of trained professionals at the Val Thorens Drivers’ School. The more intrepid meet each evening from Wednesday to Friday on the Tête Ronde blue slope for a thrill-packed 45-minute descent on a mountain bike. At the bottom… mulled wine provides a well-deserved reward.
And after such extreme exertions, you are fully entitled to treat yourself to another amazing experience in the elegant and Norwegian-inspired world of the five-star Altapura hotel, which was recently voted ‘The World’s Best Ski Resort 2013’ at the World Travel Awards. Highlights include the highly original Ski Bar – its newest accomplishment -, where you will sip your drink at a bar made from more than 60 pairs of colorful ski boots and 20 used skis, as well as the sublime feeling of being in one of 72 rooms with the contemporary decor and the superlative white of the mountain in the background.